Here are the answers to the most common questions we’re asked. For more information please contact us to discuss your individual requirements.
How secure are your observatories?
We take security very seriously – after all, we want you to enjoy your observatory (and its contents) for a long time. Our doors are high-density hardwood exterior firedoors faced with cladding to match the rest of the observatory. In the door you’ll find a 5-lever insurance-rated lock as standard (a second 5-lever mortice deadlock is available if you require it). All windows are designed to be secure from the outside, and are glazed with laminated or toughened glass. Where UPVC or aluminium doors and windows are used, these meet the very latest PAS-24 security standards and usually come with Police ‘Secured by Design’ certification.
Our roofs are secured internally when closed with heavy-duty locking hasps. In short, it is probably easier to break into your house than our observatories!
What is the best time of year to install?
To be honest, there isn’t really a “best” time of year. Some of our customers choose to install in the Summer/Autumn in order to avoid disrupting their observations during darker winter months – getting the kit ready for the new season – whereas some choose to install in Winter/Spring to avoid garden upheaval during the Summer months. It depends on your priorities, but bear in mind that we take comprehensive steps to avoid damage to your garden/lawn so it shouldn’t need time to ‘recover’ after installation…. equally, the on-site part of installation is very quick, so you won’t be without your observing space for very long!
Will you do the groundworks?
Our observatories are mostly very ‘light touch’ when it comes to groundworks. We don’t generally require huge slabs of concrete thanks to our strong, frame-based designs. As such, only a few slabs are generally required and a foundation for the telescope pier or pillar. It’s therefore quite easy for you to do the groundworks yourself. If you’d prefer not to, we can do them (especially if you are local to us) or we can provide a comprehensive plan for a local contractor to work to (this is usually more cost-effective than us carrying out the work).
What is your lead time?
It depends on the project of course, but many of our simpler designs can be designed, costed, quoted, built and installed within a month. More extensive projects can take longer and of course we aren’t afraid to work on projects where the decision process can take much longer, such as community observatories where it can take months or more to agree the design and obtain funding and permissions. We won’t rush you – but equally it can sometimes take a little time to get things just right.
Can I choose my cladding / finish?
Of course! The main cladding we use nowadays, James Hardie’s “HardiePlank” fibre-cement cladding comes pre-painted in a range of about 30 colours and has the appearance of painted cedar ‘featheredge’ cladding. It has the very real advantage of dimensional stability: unlike wood products it doesn’t expand, warp or twist as the moisture level in the air changes. If you’d prefer an unpainted finish though, we can use a wide range of timber cladding from inexpensive redwood pine featheredge to beautiful woods such as Siberian Larch, as seen on our Highland Observatory. One thing we don’t install any longer is the timber shiplap cladding seen on many of the earlier observatories on our website; the product is no longer produced to sufficiently regularised dimensions to meet our tight tolerances. If you’re looking for a finish we haven’t mentioned here, just ask!
Do you design DOME observatories?
We haven’t yet – but we’d never rule it out. In particular there are a number of manufacturers of domes which can be integrated into our timber designs. This is sometimes a good solution when the sheltering aspects of domes are needed (e.g. in areas with lots of artificial lights in view) but a timber building is required to provide the flexibility of (say) a warm room or multiple observing areas.
Do your observatories require planning permission?
Generally speaking, we design our observatories to avoid any requirement for planning permission or building regulations approval – the height and floor-space etc. will generally come within the allowed limits. However if you live in a National Park or a designated AONB, the regulations can differ. We can provide some advice, but you should definitely consult your local authority if you are unsure. We have produced plans for planning applications in the past where permission has been required.
Do you build commercial/community observatories?
Yes! We have previously designed and built observatories for schools and community organisations in particular. We’ve even designed a whole village of observatory houses! Commercial settings generally require a particular combination of reliability, functionality and longevity…. all three are cornerstones of our design principles. In fact we are just about the only specialist observatory builder in the UK that can confidently take on commercial and community projects.
Are there any limits to what I can have?
Only that it needs to be possible to build! Seriously, our observatories are custom-designed for every customer – taking into account all aspects of its use, contents, location and owner. If you want something that isn’t standard, you’ve come to the right place! Why not take a look at our portfolio for some ideas – or send us your own and we’ll gladly assist!
How much do your observatories cost?
Because we don’t have any ‘off-the-shelf’ designs, and thanks to recent volatility in timber prices, it’s impossible to give you a price list. However the price for our standard specification generally sits at around £140 (British Pounds) per square foot of floor space, including VAT. This guesstimate doesn’t include any required groundworks, pier or delivery costs, so the best way to get a clear answer on cost is to send your specification (size, roof style, whether you want a warm room) and your address to us for a quote – just email email@example.com.
Our costs are based on a complex and very accurate calculation that prices all the materials, labour and transport/delivery required, so there are no nasty surprises for either side.
What area(s) do you cover?
We can install observatories in the UK and most parts of Western Europe. As our workshop is located in Surrey, England, please bear in mind that more distant jobs (either in the UK or abroad) will incur higher delivery costs, which also depend on the size (and overall weight) of the observatory itself.
For clients outside Europe, we also offer a design-only service. Please contact us for further details.
What about electrics?
Our designer, Neil Phillipson, is a fully City & Guilds qualified electrician (and an NICEIC-registered Domestic Installer). He is responsible for the design, installation and testing (and of course Part P certification) of all the electrics supplied with any of our structures. Whatever the project, we can install lights, sockets and heating as required – ensuring your comfort, safety and enjoyment. Lights and sockets are standard with our observatories and garden offices of course!
What are your payment terms?
These can vary for particular projects, but generally we require a deposit of 60% of the quoted price once you approve the plans, and the remaining 40% is payable on completion.
Payment can be by bank transfer (preferably) or cheque.